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Train crash witness: 'I've never seen anything like it'

1 killed, 18 injured in collision that derailed TRAX train

Published: Monday, Jan. 4 2016 11:00 p.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — A fast-moving car crashed into a TRAX train with such force on Monday that the impact knocked the train off its tracks and left it teetering on the North Temple overpass, killing an Ogden man and injuring 18 others.

"The train came probably about 2 feet from hitting us," said Kaylyn Sharp, of West Jordan, who was walking along North Temple when the crash happened just feet away. "It was incredibly terrifying to experience. I've never seen anything like it."

The driver didn't slow as he barreled through the railroad crossing arms and slammed into the train. Police identified the man as Jose Delrio Cabral, 51, of Ogden.

A warrant was issued for Cabral's arrest Monday just a few hours after he died, according to court records. Police say he was also involved in a separate accident shortly before the crash.

Sharp and others rushed to Cabral's side, finding him badly injured and incoherent.

"He had a pulse, but he was breathing really shallow and his pulse kept going in and out as he passed out," an emotional Sharp recounted through tears. "I just tried to stay by him, and I put my hand on the back of his head and told him that he wasn't alone and that somebody was on their way to come and help him."

Sharp stayed with the driver until paramedics arrived, searching for a pulse when he passed out again. As the man continued to struggle for breath, Sharp said she tried to reassure him that he was doing a good job and to hold on.

"It was really sad and he was … all alone in his car," Sharp said. "Everyone else was kind of yelling and panicking. My dad was an EMT for a long time, so I just tried to stay calm for (the driver) and just let him know he wasn't alone and help was on the way."

Salt Lake Police Sgt. Robin Heiden said detectives believe the car was traveling at a high rate of speed.

"This guy did not stop for the arm, he took that out as well, and then crashed nearly head-on with the train," she said.

On board the train, at least 18 people were injured. Seven, including the conductor, were transported to local hospitals. Nine people were treated at the scene and then released. Two others initially refused transportation to the hospital but later drove themselves there, Heiden said. All injuries to people on the train were minor, most suffering from cuts and bruises.

Four people were briefly trapped inside the front of the train after a pole fell onto the train, preventing the train doors from opening.

Five minutes before the crash with the TRAX train, about four blocks away, a hit-and-run crash was reported at 11:08 a.m. at 200 West and North Temple. Heiden said police believed Cabral was responsible. In that crash, the other motorist suffered only minor injuries.

A warrant for Cabral's arrest was issued in 3rd District Court after 3 p.m. Monday, according to court records. Cabral had failed to pay restitution after pleading guilty to assault against a police officer, a class A misdemeanor. Additional charges of failure to stop at the command of law enforcement and interference with an arresting officer were dismissed in exchange for the plea.

Cabral was arrested in North Salt Lake in April after police found him walking on top of concrete dividers separating U.S. 89 from the frontage road. He ran from an officer and began swinging his arms at oncoming traffic on an I-15 on-ramp and resisted arrest, charging documents state.

In 2015, Cabral pleaded guilty in two separate cases to reduced charges of attempted possession of a controlled substance. He pleaded guilty in 2014 to criminal mischief.

The Utah Transit Authority set up a bus bridge to connect passengers from the Arena and Fairpark TRAX stations, later adjusting it to run instead from Salt Lake Central to the Fairpark. Officials hoped the green line would start running again Monday evening, but a bus bridge remained in place throughout the night. Officials didnt immediately say when full service would resume.

UTA spokesman Remi Barron said the crash could rack up "tens of thousands of dollars" in damage, but he was confident the actual tracks weren't damaged. A full estimate won't be possible until the train is removed and an inspection conducted of the train, tracks and cables.

The last case of a TRAX derailment occurred in March 2015, when a switching error led to a slow-speed crash between two trains.

Contributing: Peter Samore, Morgan Jacobsen, Pat Reavy

Email: mromero@deseretnews.com

Twitter: McKenzieRomero

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